Friday, May 29, 2009

(DO NOT) Cry for the Strangers

I sure do like watching stupid shit. That is both true and untrue. Whenever a film is pretty much universally panned, I have to give it a shot. With Cry for the Strangers, I refused to believe that Peter Medak could screw anything up that badly. The man who directed The Changeling AND Zorro, the Gay Blade can do no wrong in my eyes. Until now... Well anyway, my review of Cry for the Strangers is right here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Scream... and Die!

Scream… And Die!
AKA The House That Vanished
Directed by José Ramón Larraz
Released: 1973
Starring Andrea Allan, Karl Lanchbury, Maggie Walker, Peter
Forbes-Robertson, Lorna Collins
Running Time: 96 minutes

A model named Valerie (played by Andrea Allan) and Terry, her scumbag boyfriend, break into a house one night and witness the brutal stabbing of a woman by an unseen assailant. Valerie escapes but the killer has discovered who Valerie is and where she lives. Afraid to go to the police, Valerie tries to forget the murder and go back to her daily life but the killer has other plans.

Before directing the excellent Vampyres, José Ramón Larraz gave the world Scream… and Die! and the world was not amused. Why there is an exclamation point in the title, I have no idea. Though it features some very strong scenes of sexual violence and even some incestuous freakiness, Scream… and Die! is a bore. All is not lost as there is some excellent atmosphere in the stalking sequences and a pretty decent score with some strange feedbacky noises and creepy queues.

Andrea Allan is very, very beautiful and is an okay actress but damn, the writer forgot to give her character anything to do other than acting dumb and looking scared. But this is a problem with the script in general. All of the characters are as flat as pancakes. The mediocre actors follow suit by adopting this aloof style that makes them all maddeningly dull.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only thing worse than a bad horror movie is one that is almost good. Scream… and Die! is not some great overlooked proto-slasher flick by any means. The pace is slow and the characters are really stupid and not even interesting in a quirky way (though one chick sleeps in the nude with her baby baboon). There are enough red herrings in the plot, gratuitous nude scenes, and moments of creepy atmosphere to make it watchable enough but I recommend putting this one on the bottom of your list of 70s trash.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beware the BAVADOOM

Okay, BAVADOOM is finally done. The moviethon consisted of 17 Mario Bava films watched in a little under 54 hours. While it was not as insane as Argentophobia and it wasn't nearly as drunken as Doomed Fulci-thon, my Mario Bava moviethon was a whole hell of a lot of fun. The link to BAVADOOM is here so go, check it out and tell me what you think.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Death Smiled at My Butt

It's Friday afternoon before the long weekend and I'm super sleepy. Lunch (sushi) has been consumed and everything is slowing down. The sun hasn't been out for 4 days in a row (which is rare for Tampa) and I'm just sitting here and thinking about Death Smiled at Murder. Before going into porn for the rest of his career, director Joe D'Amato did a few really great horror movies. The best of which is this supernatural giallo starring Ewa Aulin, Klaus Kinski, and Luciano Rossi. I just love to watch this one over and over again. Sigh... Anyway, here's my review.

Here's the NSFW trailer:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Vampires' Night Orgy

Sometimes things lurking in the public domain are totally awesome. This junky vampire freakout is equal parts eerie and goofy. The Vampires' Night Orgy is directed by the awesome León Klimovsky, the man responsible for Werewolf Shadow (one of Paul Naschy's finest flicks). It's easy to find The Vampires' Night Orgy on just about any cheapo horror DVD compilation or you can watch this entire flick on Youtube. The DVDs of Klimovsky's film are pretty sketchy as far as quality goes so you might as well dig on it wherever you can. If anyone can recommend a decent DVD presentation, please do. Hopefully, somebody somewhere will restore this odd little Spanish gem and give it its day in the sun (or moon).

The awesome trailer:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Reiko the Zombie Shop

It’s not a crush! I’m in love! Reiko the Zombie Shop from Dark Horse is my new favorite horror manga. I’m only up to volume 4 (out of 11) of this gore-drenched and sexy series from artist Rei Mikamoto. A ‘zombie shop’ by the way, is another term for a necromancer, a person who raises the dead, and Reiko Himezono just happens to be the best. By invoking the power of Satan, this enterprising high schooler will return life to a corpse for a substantial fee, of course. Unfortunately, most of the cases Reiko takes involve murder and mayhem so the zombies she raises are usually very pissed off.

Laced with a sick, sardonic sense of humor and a healthy dose of nihilism, Reiko the Zombie Shop appeals to a reader’s darker side and always goes for the gusto when it comes to blood and carnage. The series is mostly short stories of Reiko’s adventures but bigger storylines do develop including a battle with her older sister, Riruka. That’s right, kids; this super-hot zombie shop has an evil sister who also happens to be a necromancer bent on world domination. Let’s all collectively pray (to the devil) that this wicked manga will eventually becomes a major motion picture or an anime series.

UPDATE 01/25/10:

Sons a bitches! Looks like Dark Horse has dropped this title. Out of 11 volumes, only 6 have come out so far. Volume 6 came out in April of 2007 and there are no signs of volume 7 coming out anytime soon. Please write to the nice people of Dark Horse and ask them to finish releasing this amazing series.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


If I had to trade every spaghetti western for just one film, I’d chose Django in a heartbeat. When I discovered Django several years ago, I had only ever been exposed to Sergio Leone’s work in the genre. I would watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly over and over again (not easy to do since it’s 2 hours and 40 minutes long) and to be honest, I was totally content with that. Then I rented Django and the floodgates opened. Not only did I discover my favorite spaghetti western of all time but it also triggered my interest in tracking down more titles.

Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 masterpiece is so unbelievably awesome that it threatens to jump off the screen and shoot you in the face (or cut off your ear). It’s bleak, wildly violent and ultra cool in almost every way. The image of Franco Nero dragging a coffin behind him through the mud is impossible to forget. Corbucci perfected what I call the “spaghetti depresstern”. If you’ve ever seen his 1969 film, The Great Silence, then you know what I’m talking about. I urge everyone to check out the original Django (and ignore most of the fake sequels) without hesitation. Even if you hate westerns, you will love this movie.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Queen of Black Magic

The Queen of Black Magic
AKA Ratu Ilmu Hitam
Directed by Liliek Sudjio
Released: 1979
Starring Suzzanna, W.D. Muchtar, Terry Purba, Sofia W.D., Alan Nuary
Running Time: 90 minutes
DVD Studio: Mondo Macabro

A wedding party falls under a black magic curse. The bride has horrific visions and the entire ceremony is in shambles. The groom, Kohar, took Murni’s virginity and then spurned her for his new woman. Now he accuses her of casting the curse upon his fiancé. Kohar encourages the villagers to capture Murni, set her mother on fire, and then throw her off a cliff. She is rescued from death by a witch doctor who teaches her the arts of black magic. Murni uses her newfound abilities to get vengeance on Kohar and the people who tried to destroy her.

The Queen of Black Magic has excellent direction and pacing. The movie flies by as we are treated to one wild scene after another. Somebody please, buy me this soundtrack! The score for The Queen of Black Magic is some wild synthesizer action mixed with a killer string section and awesome percussion.

Obviously not big on women’s lib, Murni (played by the lovely Suzzanna) is first manipulated by the man she loves and then becomes a pawn of the evil sorcerer. Thankfully, Kohar, the unrepentant prick gets what he deserves. Permana, the holy man, comes preaching that prayer is the best defense against black magic and he’s right. The ignorance of the villagers and their refusal to pray will spell out their doom.

The gore effects are simple but gruesome with some wicked splatter moments. One evil bastard is killed when giant blood-filled boils appear on his body and burst all over the place. Another choice scene comes when someone rips his own head off. The head starts flying around and bites a strip of flesh off the leader of the village.

This was my first foray into Indonesian horror and it will not be the last. The story reminded me of a 70s Shaw Brothers gore flick but more conservative like an Indian horror film (just without the musical numbers). Other than the crazy gore and Murni’s wacky training montage, the most outlandish aspect of The Queen of Black Magic is a totally unnecessary melodramatic twist at the end that just makes the story a little more confusing and a little more strange. Overall, this is a fun flick that folks with a taste for international horror will go bonkers over.


“All men are traitors!”

DVD Stuff

The DVD from Mondo Macabro looks great. The print is a little damaged but the colors are brilliant and the blacks are deep. The only audio option is the English dubbed version but the track is quite clear. Extras include the infamous Mondo Macabro trailer reel, an essay on the film's history by Pete Tombs, and a tour by El Badrun of his special effects studio.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Funeral Home

Funeral Home
Directed by William Fruet
Released: 1980
Starring Kay Hawtrey, Lesleh Donaldson, Barry Morse, Dean Garbett, Stephen E. Miller, Alf Humphreys, Peggy Mahon
Running Time: 93 minutes

Heather (played by Lesleh Donaldson) arrives by bus to help her grandmother, Maude Chalmers (Kay Hawtrey), convert the family funeral home into a bed and breakfast. Sounds like a pretty fantastic idea to me. Miss Chalmers is a God-fearing woman but ever since the disappearance of her mortician husband, she’s been just a tad strange. As some of the guests start to disappear, Heather begins to suspect that something terrible may be going on.

Canadian William Fruet, the man behind all kinds of wacky movies such as Spasms, Death Weekend and Blue Monkey, directs this simple but atmospheric cheapie that is actually pretty decent. The story is very simple (it should only take you about 4 and a half seconds to figure out) but has lots of holes. For instance, why does this little shitbox town have so many tourists anyway?

I can’t help but love the simple, easy-going and all American- um... okay, Canadian folks in this movie. Heather will steal your heart because she is just so darn adorable (especially in that frumpy one piece she wears to the rock quarry (where all the kids go)). There’s a hapless (yet intermittently brilliant) rookie cop named Joe (Alf Humphreys) who knows that there is some hinky stuff going on but just can’t seem to put the clues together.

Kay Hawtrey tears shit up as Maude Chalmers, a scrappin’ broad who just cannot stand sinners. I totally side with her, by the way. And it just wouldn’t be a rural thriller without a subnormal farmhand snooping around. His name is Billy Hibbs, he’s played by Stephen E. Miller and he is horny and angry (but you know he’s the reddest red herring of them all).

When all is said and done, Funeral Home is an okay way to kill an hour and a half. The camerawork is excellent and the film has an undeniably unsettling atmosphere. There isn’t much blood but there are enough of those early 80s short shorts to make any viewer nauseous. The climax is very tense even though we’ve known what the twist (I hesitate calling it that) was going to be all along.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Horror Films of the 1980s

John Kenneth Muir has given horror nerds a reason to breakdance now and forever. After his astounding two volume Horror Films of the 1970s, comes (what else) Horror Films of the 1980s. This 800+ page behemoth is a superb look at the decadent decade of teased hair and bloody machetes. Think you've seen everything from the 80s? Chances are you will make a pages-long list of things you forgot about or have never heard of before.

My biggest complaint about the book is a snarky review of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond. The reviewer compares people calling The Beyond a masterpiece with the French loving Jerry Lewis. Thanks a bunch, you clever fucking dick. The Beyond doesn't have a cohesive story? No way! I hadn't noticed. If I gave a double god damn about plot and storyline, I wouldn't be a horror movie fan. Shit, even The Hills Have Eyes Part II, the worst sequel of all time, gets a better score. Seriously?

Am I criticizing these reviews simply because of my own personal taste in horror films? Yes, of course I am. I'm a geek and I will always go there. The book makes tons of excuses for Christine (a terrible film based on an awful book) but the reviewer claims that the audience doesn't sympathize with Liza (the heroine in The Beyond) because she's "too weird". Um well, actually we sympathize with her because she's played by Catriona MacColl, duder!

Basically, anything remotely negative any reviewer says about The Beyond is true. It doesn't make one lick of sense but that's one of the things that makes it so dang awesome. The characters are thinly written and to make up for it, they behave inexplicably. How is that not great? Fulci fans (and Italian horror fans in general) cannot be reasoned with. We can only be ridiculed but we'll be too busy with mopping up the guts to notice. That's just how we roll. I just thought this particular review was written with a big middle finger wagging in our faces but ANYWAY...

From the fascinating introduction to the useful appendixes and all the excellent reviews in-between, Horror Films of the 1980s is an amazing resource and fun as hell to read. (It also gives me a chance to have imaginary arguments with Muir and the book's contributors.) Very highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Maneater of Hydra

Maneater of Hydra
AKA La Isla de la Muerte
Directed by Mel Welles
Released: 1967
Starring Cameron Mitchell, George Martin, Elisa Montés, Rolf von Nauckhoff, Matilde Muñoz Sampedro, Kai Fischer, Hermann Nehlsen
Running Time: 88 minutes
DVD Studio: Shout! Factory

A group of tourists travel to an island to see its exotic botanicals. There they meet Baron von Weser (played by Cameron Mitchell), a reclusive scientist studying rare horticulture and experimenting with crossbreeding dangerous varieties of plants. One of the Baron’s creations is draining the blood of human beings (through a small hole in their cheek) and the tourists are dying one by one.

Mel Welles, the genius behind the inexplicably amazing Lady Frankenstein directs this junky little number. The lame and predictable dialogue is goofily dubbed and the storyline is totally generic monster movie pseudoscientific hokum. The worst scene in the movie features all the characters shouting about who or what is to blame for the recent killings. Most importantly however, Maneater of Hydra has a beautiful mansion, an exotic locale and a windstorm that never seems to let up.

Our cast of characters is headed up by total spazzoid Cameron Mitchell (a man who inspires great love and hatred in me) of Blood and Black Lace and Minnesota Clay. Cora Robertson (Czechoslovakian actress Kai Fischer) is a hot bag of cleavage in heat. The lovely and sweet Beth is played by Elisa Montés who would show up in Jess Franco’s 99 women. The most irritating character is the shrill and terrible Myrtle Callihan who shrieks and complains about everything. Trust me on this one: she should have been the first to die.

While Maneater of Hydra is strictly non-essential viewing (thanks mostly to some dull bits), it’s still a good time for a very boring Sunday afternoon (or a Saturday with a head cold (which is how I viewed it)). The way the creature sucks blood from people is pretty disgusting and the animated opening titles are just splendid. Plus, the climax is quite outrageous and very bloody.

“It looks like a cucumber but it tastes just like meat! Perfectly extraordinary!”

“I’m sorry but you were about to touch my giant… gardenias.”

While this film’s sketchy European origins (both Spain and Germany) are a big draw for me, I just had to get my hands on this DVD due to the presence of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. The presentation on this disc contains Elvira’s original hecklings from her “Movie Macabre” show. I consider it nothing short of a miracle that Shout! Factory DVD has released these amazing pieces of cheesy nostalgia. Even though Maneater of Hydra looks like garbage (full frame and full of scratches), I can’t see how restoration would help this horror dud in any way. Be sure to get the double feature with the excellent Spanish film The House that Screamed on the other disc.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ethereal STDs

I'm sick. It's pretty much a really bad head cold but there are moments where I would swear that it is terminal. Before I crawl back into bed, I thought I would post something about my young exposure to The Entity. I thought about posting this to the amazing Kindertrauma but it's really nothing more than a fleeting memory.

In case you don't know, The Entity is a harrowing supernatural thriller where Barbara Hershey's character is repeatedly raped and physically beaten by an invisible spirit. All I remember about the experience is sitting around with my folks and watching this painful and disconcerting film and feeling more than a little embarrassed. I don't think I could have been more than 8 years old and all I really learned was that ghosts sure as shit don't know how to treat a lady.

SPOILER: Something I don't remember about the film is that the ghost is never really defeated. She moves away and the attacks become less and less frequent and severe. That's kind of anticlimactic and um... disturbing.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Commander USA Raps & More

In my childhood, the holy trinity of horror hosts was Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, and Commander USA. If there were any local horror hosts in my area at the time then I didn't know of their existence. Commander USA was the most unusual (and the corniest) of the big three and I never missed an episode. Or at least I thought I had never missed one. Dear God, look at that freakin' rap clip above. It delivers a special kind of pain. Thanks to the kind soul who has placed all of this great Commander USA stuff up on Youtube.

Halloween Special:

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hannibal Lecter: Samurai

The scene in Hannibal Rising where Hannibal Lecter (played by Gaspard Ulliel) is all done up in Kendo gear and sparring with Lady Murasaki (Gong Li) is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Hannibal the Cannibal receiving samurai training? I think that classifies as a 50 megaton pop culture warhead. Watching that scene in theaters was pretty amazing. I wanted to giggle and cry at the same time.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two Lousy Reviews

Actually, it's more like one lousy movie and one surprisingly fun movie. Or possibly, both of these reviews are just written lousily. On Friday night, I watched Hollywood's New Blood which ruined my Friday night. Then, on Saturday, I fired up Wes Craven's Invitation to Hell which set the world right again. Sometimes life is like this and sometimes it is too. And stuff.

The opening scene of Invitation to Hell:

And the promo:

Monday, May 4, 2009


AKA Purei
Directed by Yuichi Sato
Released: 2005
Starring Tetsuji Tamayama, Asami Mizukawa, Mitsuyoshi Shinoda, Toshiyuki Toyonaga
Running Time: 77 minutes

Two losers, Mitsuru and Maki played by (Tetsuji Tamayama and Asami Mizukawa) kidnap a little girl and take her to an abandoned school. When Maki calls the parents demanding the ransom money, they tell her that their daughter has been dead for over a year. But that’s only the beginning, as the school seems to be inhabited by a very angry and murderous spirit.

Pray is a weird one. The plot seems too simple at first but a couple of plot twists come along to help keep things popping. A generic story (even with the surprises) and leisurely pace don’t help this film at all but it is just strange enough to be interesting. I’m glad the reviews I’d read beforehand were so awful. They inspired me to seek it out. (Reverse recommendations, y’all!)

While you won’t have to strain your eyes, most of Pray is pretty murky, filmed in a dark location at night with mostly drab tones. It’s almost a relief whenever someone flicks the dang lights on. Overacting from some of the cast and a schmaltzy passage near the end aren’t going to win any points with anyone. But on the plus side, the ghostly action is fun and the soundtrack is eerie and suspenseful with some beautiful passages.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Profoundly Disturbing

You know who I completely forgot about? Joe Bob Briggs! How is that even possible? A couple of weeks ago, I managed to fight my way through Blood Sisters, a really pitiful slasher directed by Roberta Findlay. When it was over, I decided to check out Joe Bob’s audio commentary track. I ended up sitting through the entire movie all over again. The track was informative, especially about Findlay’s career and it was friggin’ hilarious. After it was over, I immediately pursued more Joe Bob, which led me to his book, Profoundly Disturbing.

In Profoundly Disturbing, Briggs examines 15 underground films that changed the world of cinema forever: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Mom and Dad, Creature from the Black Lagoon, And God Created Woman, The Curse of Frankenstein, Blood Feast, The Wild Bunch, Shaft, Deep Throat, The Exorcist, Isla: She-Wolf of the SS, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Drunken Master, Reservoir Dogs, and David Cronenberg’s Crash. He delivers a mountain of information regarding the production of these films as well as their critical reception but Briggs always manages to keep it interesting.

I was a little disappointed in the brevity of the Wild Bunch chapter only because after reading that amazing Peckinpah biography (If They Move . . . Kill 'Em!: The Life and TImes of Sam Peckinpah), I can never get enough Sam Peckinpah. I was a little confused about Drunken Master’s inclusion in the book only because I couldn’t figure out how it was profoundly disturbing. Even after reading the chapter (which was a good read by the way), I still don’t know. The most profoundly disturbing chapter however is the one on Deep Throat. The stories about how the most infamous porno of the 70s came to be and the troubled life of its star are pretty twisted. Reservoir Dogs gets the longest chapter mainly because Quentin Tarantino is a jackass and needs lots of explaining.

My biggest complaint about Profoundy Disturbing is that, even at 250 pages, I still want more. This book could be 50 of the most shocking films of all time and I’d be just as fascinated. For all the list-makers, there is a wrap-up at the end of each chapter called “For Further Disturbance” where Briggs spouts off another couple of dozen related films to check out. I highly recommend Profoundly Disturbing to all burgeoning film buffs out there and oh yes, you can be sure that I will be seeking out more Joe Bob Briggs books in the near future.